Off-the-field news took center stage again yesterday, as fears about COVID-19 and more injuries dominated the conversation. But there was plenty to watch as batters across the league were embarrassed. Here’s what went down on March 9:
- MLB closes clubhouses to media as a coronavirus precaution; still anticipating having fans at games
- Fransisco Lindor and Cleveland have set aside contract extension talks
- Justin Verlander diagnosed with lat strain; likely out past Opening Day
- Willie Calhoun avoids having jaw wired shut during surgery
- Michael Conforto (side) leaves camp to consult with Mets team doctors
- Mike Clevinger throws first bullpen session since knee surgery
- Pirates approach Joe Musgrove, Bryan Reynolds, Kevin Newman, and Ke’Bryan Hayes about extensions
- Dodgers tab Clayton Kershaw as their Opening Day starter; Julio Urias and Alex Wood make rotation
Top Hitting Performances
Dean tacked on two more extra-base hits to bring his spring tally up to six, including two home runs. He’s managed an early .286/.394/.643 triple slash, and with the Cardinals making just two offensive changes in this game, he managed to get nine innings in the field. The former Marlin is projected to start the year in AAA, where he posted a 146 WRC+ last year as a 25-year-old.
Grandal was greatly effective in his stint at the plate, serving as the designated hitter while James McCann was behind the plate. His home run was his first of the spring, and it’s good to see that the calf injury that was bothering him isn’t affecting his hitting.
Alex Dickerson (OF, San Fransisco Giants): 2-for-3, HR, 2B, 2 R, RBI
The Giants’ predicted platoon left fielder continued his solid-enough spring, hitting his first home run and pushing his triple slash to .304/.304/.565 over 23 at-bats. He’s yet to earn a walk so far, though, which is concerning.
Franmil Reyes (OF/DH, Cleveland Indians): 2-for-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI
Reyes pushed his spring home run total to five, which is half of what he earned with Cleveland in 51 games last year. Franimal has been scorching hot this spring, with a 1.631 OPS so far. Watch for his ADP to climb as draft day approaches.
Kelvin Gutierrez (1B/3B/DH, Kansas City Royals): 2-for-4, HR, 2 R, RBI
Guttierrez matched has major-league home run total from last year yesterday, though he topped double-digits across all stops in both of the last two years. He posted a wRC+ above 100 in AA in 2018 and is projected to be a bench candidate for the Royals next year.
Upton’s draft stock had been a consistently confusing story this winter, with his most recent healthy seasons resembling that of a top-75 player, but his health and batting position far from guaranteed. He had a strong game out of the sixth spot in the order, and we’ll need to see him have a few more of those to potentially move his way past Albert Pujols and earn better opportunities to bat in Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon this upcoming year.
Murphy sent his first home run of the spring deep, courtesy of Derek Law. We’ve seen just eight at-bats for the 25-year-old as he returns from a meniscus injury to his left knee. An even better sign is that he caught most of the game as well — all signs point toward him making a healthy start to the season.
SPs to watch on TV today:
Nola: FB cmd in-and-out
Happ: FBs up-and-in
Kwang-Hyun Kim: Deserved #5 spot?
Garrett Richards: FB cmd + SL whiffs
Cease: Overall command
Tony Disco: SLs = whiffs, CB/CH good?
Heaney: Overall command
Wood: 92/93 mph?
Prince Felix: Deserved #5 starter?
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) March 9, 2020
Another day, another pitcher missing a start with flu-like symptoms. This time, Aaron Nola missed his start, and the Phillies went with a “bullpen game” to replace him.
Happ continued his run of looking like the ace of the Yankees’ rotation. But is he executing his fastballs up and in?
J. A. Happ making righties uncomfortable for backward Ks pic.twitter.com/0gRknbEE28
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 9, 2020
Yes, he is. Aaron Boone has specifically noted that Happ feels more comfortable executing the pitch this spring, and his 1.38 ERA so far doesn’t disagree.
Kwang-Hyun Kim (SP, St. Louis Cardinals): 3 IP, 2 Hits, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K
After missing his previous start with groin tightness, Kim showed off the promise that has us thinking that he can take the Cardinals’ fifth rotation spot. Through eight innings this spring, he’s yet to give up a run and has and 11:1 strikeout-to walk-rate. He is currently exceeding his KBO bests through a small sample, but this is definitely another step in the right direction.
I’m grouping these two, who combined to throw the first innings for the Rays yesterday, because Snell’s horrific line deserves further explanation. He walked four of the five batters he faced, including walking in a run immediately before being pulled. Just six of his 22 pitches were strikes. Richards then promptly served up a grand slam to Danny Jansen, which accounted for his other three earned runs. Snell wasn’t bad because he was hit hard. He was bad because he couldn’t hit the strike zone. He wasn’t technically pulled for injury, and Snell said that his elbow was fine after the game. But with Snell’s draft stock floating on buyers’ belief that his 2019 was due to bad luck and injury, we’re going to need to see a healthy and effective Snell to draft him anywhere near his February ADP.
The Padres might have gotten shelled by the Dodgers’ minor leaguers, but Richards certainly wasn’t to blame. After Bellinger doubled in the third, a passed ball moved him to third and allowed him to score on a sac fly. Richards was otherwise very efficient and got out of any trouble he generated with some timely strikeouts and weak contact. This was about what we’d want to see. Oh, and there was this, too.
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 9, 2020
Cease was sharper than his line indicated at times, but also considerably worse at others. He served up a leadoff home run to Nick Senzel before retiring six of his next seven. But things went south in a big way in the third. He loaded the bases on two walks and a hit-by-pitch before walking in a run. And he was lucky after that point to give up just one run — a single to center scored just one run, and then his defense bailed him out with a double play. Cease then returned to form for the fourth, going single/double play/strikeout to close things out. If we wanted to see consistent command, we didn’t. But the signs that he’s close are also there. Prepare to be frustrated.
We were watching for effective secondary pitches to gauge Tony Disco’s strikeout upside. We saw hitters whacking those secondary pitches into the ground. All three hits came in the third, including a leadoff double that turned into a run, but this was largely an efficient outing. Too many outings like that and you’ll have trouble feeding your family, as Nick would say. But the red flags were few and far between in this start.
Andrew Heaney (SP, Los Angeles Angeles): 2 2/3 IP, 5 Hits, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
The newly tabbed Opening Day starter for the Angels looked the part for two innings, but he pitched more than that. Entering the third, Heaney had given up just a single and had two strikeouts. But three singles in a row loaded the bases before he gave up one run on a fielder’s choice, and then three on a Franmil Reyes shot to center. It’s not that his control failed him — Heaney was hitting the strike zone. Some bad luck definitely played a part here — three weak singles doomed his line — but this wasn’t the consistent start we would want to see.
The newly-tabbed fifth starter for the Dodgers handled his business yesterday, but readings on his fastball velocity were harder to come by than we would want. A Josh Naylor triple was the primary blemish on the day, but this was otherwise an excellent outing. If it continues (and the fastball velo is actually at 92-93, as was suggested before), then Wood’s draft stock will deserve to rise considerably.
Felix Hernandez (SP, Atlanta Braves): 6 IP, 6 Hits, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
It admittedly still feels weird to type Atlanta next to King Felix’s name, but if we see more performances like yesterday’s, Nick will at least have to stop with his “Prince” nonsense. Very few pitchers hit six innings this early in the spring, so seeing one with recent injury troubles do so is especially good. And notching six strikeouts in those innings is also a decent sign. With a 1.98 ERA so far, Hernandez definitely looks on track to nail down the fifth starter spot to open the year.
What to Watch for Today
SPs to watch on TV today:
Boyd: touching 94mph? Good CH?
Cole: No HRs plz. K thx.
Wheeler: SLs down, FBs up?
Cueto: IS HE GOOD
Minor: Good SL/CB? CH & FB still dope?
Bundy: Heavy SL/CH for whiffs with FBs up?
Kopech: OH SNAP SHOW ME VELO
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) March 10, 2020
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)